Now Is Not The Time To Count Superdelegates

by: Chris Bowers

Fri Feb 08, 2008 at 09:03

Right now, with the exception of NBC news, most news outlets are counting super delegates in their running delegate total for the Democratic nomination. However, they should not be doing this, because it assumes something very negative about Democrats that has been consistently refuted by past Democratic nomination campaigns. Simply put, Democratic super delegates often change their minds, and have always lined up behind the popular vote winner in the primaries.

From 1984 to 2004, the overwhelming majority of super delegates have cast their convention votes for the candidate who won more votes during the primary and caucus season. This was just as true for Mondale in 1984 as it was for Kerry in 2004. On every single occasion, large numbers of super delegates switched their early, public support for a candidate in favor of the candidate who had the most popular support from voters in Democratic primaries and participants in Democratic caucuses.

If you don't believe me, then believe CNN, one of the organizations that is including super delegates in their totals:

CNN's political director, Sam Feist, noted that the campaigns' lists of supportive superdelegates tend to be inflated and sometimes contradictory. There are people on a candidate's list, said Mr. Feist, "who, when we call them, say, 'I'm not for that candidate,' or even, 'I'm for the other candidate.' " Those who include superdelegates take exhaustive steps to pin down voting preference, which means many superdelegates are inundated with phone calls and emails until a presumptive candidate emerges.

Let me get this straight: by CNN's own admission, super delegate counts are fluid, inflated, and contradictory. And yet they include those totals anyway. Why a major news outlet is publishing a fluid, inflated, and contradictory report is beyond me, but it might be one reason why the national opinion of news media isn't very high these days.

Super delegates have always made up, or changed, their minds en masse to endorse the candidate with the most popular support from primary and caucus participants. As such, the way nearly all super delegates vote at the convention is dependant on how Democratic primary voters and caucus goers vote before the convention. Since Democratic primary and caucus goers have not yet finished voting, there is no solid way to tell how super delegates will vote at the convention. To put it another way, super delegate counts are projections, not actual totals. Until the cause of how super delegates vote has played itself out, it simply does not make any sense on either a democratic or mathematical level to include super delegates in delegate totals. To do so is precisely analogous to including in delegate counts future delegate totals from states that have not yet held nominating contests by using polls to determine future delegate counts. While no news organization would ever include such future pledged delegates projections in their delegate counts, almost all of them are doing exactly the same thing by including future super delegates projections in their delegate counts.

This primary season, polls have often been contradictory, fluid, and such plain wrong. That is why news organizations have waited until actual voting results have been completed before adding up pledged delegate totals. Unfortunately, to date they have not waited to include super delegates, whose vote is also dependant on how primary and caucus goers vote, before adding them to delegate totals. That needs to change.  

Chris Bowers :: Now Is Not The Time To Count Superdelegates

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Wait a sec (0.00 / 0)
Super delegates have always made up, or changed, their minds en masse to endorse the candidate with the most popular support from primary and caucus participants. As such, the way nearly all super delegates vote at the convention is dependant on how Democratic primary voters and caucus goers vote before the convention.

This statement appears to contradict the purpose of the Super Delegate Transparency project

Specifically it seeks to provide citizens with visibility to how the Super-Delegates could impact the outcome of the primary.

and Jennifer Nix who claims

It cuts both ways for me, too. Super-delegates should vote according to the will of the people--the popular vote--whether Clinton won that district or state, or whether they fall into the Obama column. Wouldn't it be nice if we could just scrap the current super-deg count and say "Do-Over!!" Members of Congress should vote according to who won their districts. Senators and governors should vote how their states go, etc. Not sure what you do about super-delegates who are just sort of free-floating party power-brokers. Anyway. Sadly, that ain't gonna happen.

If superdelegates generally line up behind the popular vote winner, why bother tracking them?  And, if the winner of the popular vote isn't clear then it seems to me that the superdelegates actually have a role to play.  

Nothing here is contradictory (4.00 / 1)
You can seek to know who the superdelegates are, make them visible, figure out how they impact the race (as Bowers is doing here), and this doesn't void the fact that superdelegates will, in the main, support the clear leader in pledged (voted) delegates.

You are right, they will have a role to play, if there is no clear leader.

[ Parent ]
To what end? (0.00 / 0)
Jim Webb is my senator.  If he supports Obama and I support Clinton, what am I supposed to do with that information?  I have no influence over who he decides to support.  Figuring out how they impact the race assumes they're voting as a monolithic bloc.

It's one thing to collect all this information but what are people expected to do with it?

[ Parent ]
Transparency, at the minimum (4.00 / 2)
I think with the greater light being shone on superdelegates, the actual superdelegates are going to think long and hard about the "right" thing to do, taking account how their state voted, who is ahead in the pledged delegate race, etc, rather than making some tit for tat deal, with Clinton or Obama.

Each superdelegate will still make their own decision, but I think the transparency is useful.

[ Parent ]
I agree (4.00 / 1)
The superdelegates have to be feeling how exposed they are right now. I posted earlier this week that the supers should be subjected to advocacy to ensure they do the right thing, but I'm anticipating now that they are going to do due diligence. Nobody wants to come out of this looking like an enabler of an arbitrary ruling. But the transparency project is a good idea. Super Ds should be accessible to the whole party if the call is close.

[ Parent ]
Is there a way to convince the networks NOT to include superdelegates? (4.00 / 1)
You've said what needs to be said.

Basically, superdelegates will go with who is winning.  If Obama is winning by 100 pledged delegates, there is no way that Hilary is "ahead" by having superdelegates.

And the biggest thing - there are more "undecided" superdelegates, than there are pledged.  Those undecided will move to the winner of the pledged delegates, so a lead in superdelegates NOW is meaningless.

Our national news media - knowing nothing.

Not necesarily. (0.00 / 0)
Many times superdelegates cast their vote based on any number of reasons.

Certainly for a superdelegate from Califonia to cast their vote for Clinton would be totally appropriate, and much more in keeping with voting with his constituency than voting against the people of his own state.

Also if one person wins all more delegates, but does not have the popular vote, there is another good reason for a superdelegate selecting to go "with the people" rather than make the political move.

Both these choices are in fact less politically motivated than going with the person who has "the most pledged delegates".

[ Parent ]
Indeed (4.00 / 1)
I'm glad to see you've found religion on this, Chris.  A few days ago you were saying that Clinton's 2-1 superdelegate advantage was insuperable, and that it was foolish to think that superdelegates would line up behind the eventual nominee.

In any event, I fully agree - it's silly and annoying that the media is including superdelegates in their count.  It's worth keeping tabs on superdelegate endorsements, but they should be clearly separated from the pledged delegate counts.

2008 is a little different (4.00 / 1)
Good point, Chris, but 2008 is a little different.  Since 1988, one candidate finished the primaries way up over all others. In 2008, the candidates might end up only separated by a few percentage points, (in delegates and pop. vote).  I'm not sure the "coming together" history applies in such a case.

BTW, I honestly forget whether Hart or Mondale won more popular votes in the 1984 primary season. If Hart took more, that would make my point.

I wondered about this year being different too (0.00 / 0)
I appreciate Chris' basic premise but I haven't seen anything like this year in...well...a long time.

And I was thinking about that 1984 race too.  I worked for Hart in WV (and some other states) and recall how there was still uncertainty as late as the June primaries! Found the vote count on Salon:

All told, Mondale won 6.8 million votes to Hart's 6.5 million (Jesse Jackson placed third with 3.3 million votes).

Jackson's plausible candidacy was a memorable aspect of those days.

[ Parent ]
There are numerous other problems (0.00 / 0)
With the way the nominees are selected.

The superdelegates are only one.

Many if not most of the various officials of the national Democratic party have had serious problems with the "caucus" format which also creates problems of its own, considering that caucuses usually do not get anything like the turnout that primaries do.

Most breakdowns of the caucuses show that they are also controlled by and large by the local equivalent of "superdelegates". That is by local party activists, as well as those who have the time, ability, and inclination to spend several hours taking part in a long process, rather than simply casting a vote, privately and in secret. One of the major principals of the American system of voting is the idea that the ballot is done privately, and the caucus system sort of throws that concept out the window. There are many, many people who want their vote to remain private, and the caucus environment is not conducive to this. It is one of the reasons that the turnout of caucuses are always much lower percentages of the elegible voters in a state.

So what you end up with is that in caucus states, the decisions are often made by very small percentages of the voters in both parties, and very, very publically. In some cases, it is rather uncomfortable for an employee to be standing in a group other than his employer is.

Often, the superdelegate, who may have a better feel for what those who do not take part in the caucus process actually prefer in a nominee, and when a superdelegate acts in what appears to be the position taken by the very small percentage of voters who decided in the caucus, he may be reflecting another reality, that he is made aware of by his constituents, or by other means.

As far as I am concerned, I think that the "superdelegate" acts as a very good balance against the "party activists" and others who play a very real part in the caucus environment in states that choose to retain the caucus format.

The basic opinion and position in the national Democratic party would be to have all states run primaries so as to be more inclusive and eliminate the caucuses entirely, but at the local and state levels, those who see the caucus format as giving them a sort of power position of their own, fight very hard to retain this.

When you watched the Iowa Caucuses, in every location, you basically had several individuals who have acted as the "leaders" of the caucuses for their district for decades. This basically has the same effect locally as the superdelegates do nationally. When you combine the caucus environment with union endorsements, you have a situation that is just as "undemocratic" as the assumptions being made about the "superdelegates" are.

A very clear example of this was what occured in Nevada. While the leaders of the local Culinary Union endorsed one candidate, even to the point of creating special caucus sites for their members at their workplaces, the turnout in these places was very minimal. No one knows the reasons, but even when making it easier for these workers to caucus, almost no one showed up. The simplest explanation was that a lot of workers did not want to be seen standing on the side of the room supporting a candidate that the local powers, the union leaders, the local politicos who have basically run the caucuses for many years, were not.

Basically this argument against the superdelegates is just another attempt to skew the vote in one direction, by those who are not favored by this one aspect of the nomination process, but are favored by others.

Before eliminating the superdelegates, or along with doing so, there are many other aspects of the process which also have to be straightened out, The caucus/primary divide is one of them.

But as it stands neither of these elements want to give up the power that they retain by their existence'

The superdelegates have perhaps have an excess of control at one end of the process, but those who run the caucuses have it at another end.

Both are required to balance the other.

Lost cause anyway - superdelegates will be counted (0.00 / 0)
And recounted ... and counted again.
I rememember 1980 and 1984, and it's just the way it goes...Change the rules for '12, Chris. There won't be any litmus test for SD votes this year.

[ Parent ]
You keep saying that (0.00 / 0)
And it is always a lie. Nothing I am suggesting here is about changing the rules. There are no DNC rules about how to measure the progress of the campaign. Stop saying we are trying to change the rules when we are not doing anything of th sort.  

[ Parent ]
Absolutely (0.00 / 0)
The suoerdelegates serve a very important function in a system filled with many arcane rules.

Firstly you do have the caucus/primary problem where a person can win a caucus, but could actually lose if there was a more direct and accessible system of selecting a nominee.

Next, even the method of awarding delegates is not to divide them in exact proportions. A person who wins a state by 60 percent does not get sixty percent of that states delegates. And again in the caucus system you end up with a much more unrepresentative distribution of delegates.

The superdelegates and even the opinions on what they should do vary.

Of course one group will state that the superdelegates should vote for the person who got the most NATIONAL delegates at the convention while the elected official can also justify stating that I am going to go the way the people who elected ME want me to.

Then others vote in another fashion.

Everyone has their own solution that favors their own candidate but until you get a direct apportioning of delegates by direct percentages that the candidate won a state, or a district, you have a system that is unfair in one way or another.

Everyone wants a direct system, but only where that direct system favors their candidate and accepts less direct apportionment when it also favors their own candidates.

Either you have delegates being apportioned DIRECTLY by percentage of the popular vote, or you have an unfair system in its entirety

Obamas supports love the idea that in places that Clinton wins by large numbers, Obama gets exactly the same number of delegates in many cases, and the same is true in reverse cases where the situation favors Clinton.

In fact the only fair system is the one that attracts the most voters and then divides the delegates in direct proportion to the percentage the candidate won by.

Any other solution allows for a candidate who may not be the choice of that one are to get a delegate DRAW with a person who may have beat them by double digits, thus going against the decision of that portion of the electorate.

Again the superdelegate system is no worse than all these other arcane methods of apportioning delegates.

[ Parent ]
Um (0.00 / 0)
In fact the only fair system is the one that attracts the most voters and then divides the delegates in direct proportion to the percentage the candidate won by.

Which is the current system minus super delegates. You are actually supporting my point.  

[ Parent ]
Not at all (4.00 / 1)
The superdelegate system is the least egregious of the arcane rules for dividing delegates.

When you have a system that allows one candidate to win sixty one percent of a district, or state or whatever, and the person who runs against them gets 32 percent and both get the exact same number of delegates this totally wipes out the vote of the people living in that district.

When you have a caucus system that basically favors those with a higher income, those who actually can take several hours to vote, basically a system that discourages those who do not have such privilege, the only alternative is a superdelegate who can balance these inequitable situations.

When three percent of the population of a state that has the means to spend time at a caucus makes the decisions for the other 97 percent, you also have the same problems.

Every report done on the caucus system indicates America has totally outgrown this system because it worked when people lived in distanr rural communities, worked from early in the morning until late in the afternoon, people geting together for many other community purposes was common.

Several studies repeatedly show that the turnout at caucuses has been almost continually dismal for decades.

In 2004 the turnout at the New Hampshire primaries were five times greater than those of the Iowa Caucus. And that was the closest ratio between a the caucus/primary divide.

The primary obstacles in doing away with caucuses is not based on what the people in those states want, but totally political. The political figures in the caucus state benefit from them, but poll after poll indicates that people who do not take part in the caucuses, who represent much larger numbers of the voting population would prefer if the caucus system was eliminated, and would vote in primaries.

Every report done in 2004 with regard to the caucus system found the following:

Other problems with the caucus system include:


The report shows that the principal problem with the caucus system is the extraordinarily low participation rates. Wang points out that while primary turnout is generally poor, in states with caucuses turnout is even worse. In the 2004 presidential primary in New Hampshire, which has always been the first primary of the election, the turnout was 29.9 percent; the participation in Iowa's Democratic caucus that year was about 6 percent of eligible voters in the state. Data show that Iowa was the high-water mark, with Wyoming bottoming out with 0.2 percent participation of eligible voters. Participation in Democratic state caucuses in 2004 were was follows:

Iowa (January 19): 5.7 percent
North Dakota (February 3): 2.3 percent
Washington (February 7): 2.5 percent
Michigan (February 7): 2.3 percent
Maine (February 8): 1.8 percent
Nevada (February 14): 0.6 percent
Idaho (February 24): 0.5 percent
Minnesota (March 2): 1.5 percent
Kansas (March 13): 0.1 percent
Wyoming (March 20): 0.2 percent

Discourages participation, even from motivated voters, because caucuses are held in one specific place for each district (school, restaurant, place of worship, private home), at a specific time, and participation usually requires at least a two-hour commitment.
Discourages voters who do not want to speak or vote publicly

Discourages campaigns from trying to attract new voters to the system because campaign workers know that only the most avid partisans and consistent voters will go through the tribulations of a caucus, so there is little motivation to identify and reach out to new voters
Places burden particularly on eligible voters who are not in the state on caucus day, including members of the armed services serving overseas or away from home, workers for government agencies or nonprofits who are on assignment out of the country, and students who are attending out-of-state schools, and voters with disabilities; also places burden on voters with limited English proficiency
Caucus voters are not representative of general election voters; they tend to be older and closer to the political extremes



The caucus sytem tends to favor the political insider. They always have. When you see a candidate consistantly winning caucuses, but not doing as well in the primaries, you can be certain that behind the scenes political deals are being made.

These are virtually impossible in primary states.

Allowing such small percentages of the electorate to select a nominee is a rather bad way of doing this.

I am 100 percent for a superdelegate system that allows this sort of ability to correct those imbalances. If it takes a superdelegate to pay attention to his constituency,and ALL of his constituency, and that superdelegate is aware that those of his constituency who are basically unable to take part in a caucus because of the elements of the caucus environment that discourage large numbers of voters from participating, that is absolutely the best solution to dealing with such methods of disenfranchising voters.

[ Parent ]
Smart answer (0.00 / 0)
I think you ever is better at persuading superdelegates to side with them (Clinton), should win.

[ Parent ]
I've attended several caucases ... (4.00 / 1)
And I've never felt my vote was pressured, shaped or herded in any way.

[ Parent ]
This is usually the response of those (4.00 / 1)
who attend caucuses, but does not explain the reason that caucus attendence rarely goes beyond single digits.

Every poll and measure done of caucuses has shown that the caucus enviroment rarely ends up with a very representative group of the states voters in attendence.

Republican caucuses are invariably attended by the most right leaning members of the electorate, while Democratic ones always by the most left leaning.

And the reasons cited by those who do not attend are consistantly that they cannot take the time needed, they do not feel comfortable voting publically, etc.

I think even this year even with the high turnouts in every state, that no caucus came very close in turnout to the primaries.

The majority in the national democratic party have been trying to eliminate the caucus and replace it with the primary simply because caucuses do not attract as many voters, for the reasons I have cited.

The comparisons always show this. Examples for 2004 were that the caucuses in Iowa had a 5.7 percent turnout, almost twice the size of this years, but while Kerry won the caucus, a poll of voters showed that Kerry got 16 percent of the elibible voters in the general election in that state. In Idaho the turnout for the 2004 Democratic caucus was one half of one percent of the eligible voters.

As I said when you have an environment that basically creates smaller turnout, usually much lower than those of the primaries, you really have no idea what the turnout would be if those states held primaries instead of caucuses.

I have a very strong suspicion that had there only been primaries and not caucuses, we would have a far better idea of who the Democratic nominee would be today, than we do.

The caucus simply is a very problematic environment, as is indicated simply by turnout alone.

[ Parent ]
A reply (4.00 / 1)
"who attend caucuses, but does not explain the reason that caucus attendence rarely goes beyond single digits."

Well, they're cumbersome. Let me share a chat I had on Monday, trying to convince a friend to attend the caucuses in MN.


Jeremy: Why do we have to be there at 6:30? Is there a window?
me: yes
Jeremy: Or do we just say "Aye"
4:43 PM me: no, you need to be there 30-60 minutes
Jeremy: ewww
Jeremy: That's a pain. Some of us have lives, sheesh
me: i agree
4:44 PM Jeremy: So what do we do for that amount of time?
4:46 PM me: You group up based on your candidate, they count you, then select delegates to go on to the county convention ... then the state convention .. then the national convention ... based on the # of people who show up for each candidate. It sounds more complicated than it is.


It turns out I wasn't 100% accurate, it was simplified more this year ... but I don't live in MN anymore. This is the way the caucuses that I attended always worked.

Voting takes 5 minutes, a caucus can take 2 hours. This is a disincentive to participation.

I don't see them as any less democratic, or more democratic, than a primary. If you want a true sense of public opinion then you need to have mandatory voting.

[ Parent ]
Me: Pro-Caucus (0.00 / 0)
Voting takes 5 minutes, a caucus can take 2 hours. This is a disincentive to participation.

This is true.  Thing is, the civic quality of the participation is much higher.  You've got people in a room talking politics.  Inevitably, it brings all kinds of new energy into the party.  

Consider cheering a baseball game on tv versus playing a pick-up game in the park.  Yeah, having to possess a ball and bat is a disincentive to participating but there's no comparison in the quality of agency, commitment and engagement.  

My first caucus was in '88.  I showed up for Jackson and ended up representing my precinct at the county meeting where I offered platform resoltions that made their way to the state level.  It was fascinating to watch as several Jackson first-timers continued working in local politics here in Seattle.

My experience is not unique.  I suspect it is this quality of bringing 'ordinary' folks into the party machinery 'behind the scenes' that explains why caucuses persist.  The caucus is an invigorates the party with a flush of active participation that isn't matched by 5 minutes of picking names off a ballot card.

USA: 1950 to 2010

[ Parent ]
Just Curious (0.00 / 0)
Is MyDD not subject to criticsm on the front page here?  They've got Hillary up by 250 in their preferred counter.

There are as many different (0.00 / 0)
delegate counts as their are outlets doing the counting.

Several of them have almost completely disregarded the final count in Califoria (some sites have had less than 100 of the California delegate count divided among Obama and Clinton, other have "guessed" at what the divide would be and other have actually used the real total.

It depends on how often and when they have updated their delegate counts.

On the whole is is not very often that a superdelegate who has given his endorsement early in the campaign season or while it is going on, actually changes it. You can find a few examples, but by and large, the percentage who end up switching at the convention have always been relatively small and relatively few. Not that it does not occur but the numbers who do have almost always been very small, and the number of times it has occured have been few.

The superdelegates who have already decided, are likely to stay decided as they originally decided.

Again its not a bad system, when you consider other aspects of the process that also lend to a rather skewed idea of who the majority of voters in any particular state or locality might prefer, in opposition to the actual outcome on the day of the primaries/caucuses. Superdelegates are just another method of attempting to even out and balance these other problems that occur.

[ Parent ]
Sure but their numbers are very different then anyone else (0.00 / 0)
For superdelegates they have/had Clinton at 190 and Obama at 70.  This is substantially different than anyone else.  Does anyone know what the rationale is?  Can't get answers over there.

[ Parent ]
they love clinton and (4.00 / 1)
loathe obama for some reason... i removed their Delegate counter from my website once they started including FL & MI in Clintons counter. Changing the rules of the primary game while it is being played is not direct democracy imo.

Jabberwonk! Reality Based Link Dump

[ Parent ]
There are a number of different acceptable reasons (0.00 / 0)
For a superdelegate to vote against the candidate who has the most pledges delegates.

One would of course be, that the person with the fewer pledged delegates has the popular vote.
to vote with the candidate with the most delegates but fewer direct votes, could be be interpreted as being a "political back room solution" as anything else.

Then of course you can have a person from a state one candidate lost voting WITH his constituency, rather than going with the pledged delegate count. Going with the pledged delegate count in this case would ALSO be more political and going MORE against the "will of the voters"

As I said, the superdelegate system is simply one problems that exists in the system and not the worse one.

The possibility exists (not only does it exist, it happens often) where the person with the most superdelegates does NOT have the most popular votes.

So what then?

Of course the person with the most "pledged delegates" is going to fight for the idea that he should get all of the "superdelegates"

On the other hand, this would be the most secretive and back room sort of political behavior possible.

It suggests that superdelegates from one state, should go against their own constituency, basically for political reasons.

In the case where the popular vote and the delegate count are also contrary, it suggest the same. Go with what is politically expedient and the voter be damned.

[ Parent ]
Jerome Armstrong is dishonest (0.00 / 0)
He does everything he can to prevent Obama from being ahead in the delegate counter. At first he included Michigan and Florida to boost Clinton's lead, but listed them as two separate numbers. After Tuesday night, when Obama won more delegates than Clinton, he began to count Super Delegates to boost Clinton's lead.

He has some sort of sick vendetta against Obama that's seems pretty unhealthy. If Jerome said the sky was blue I'd have to look outside to make sure it hadn't turned green.

[ Parent ]
In the end (4.00 / 1)
Both the Florida and the Michigan delegates will be seated.

Because the most politically expedient thing to do is to do so, because any candidate who suggests that both states be excludes, loses both states to the Republicans come the general election and if both go and they are extremely likely to, because Michigan is dangerously close to turning Red and this is the first year in a long time where the Democrats could win FLorida's electoral votes if they do not alienate Florida Democrats who tend to be very conservative.

The decision need not alienate ALL Democrats in those states. Only a percent or two. Florida was lost by a bit over 500 votes in 2000. More in 2004, but not until the DNC made the decision to not allow Florida Delegates to count, polls showed the Republicans losing Florida this year, (primarily because of the Republican attitude towards immigration, which vanishes with a McCain nomination,McCain could easily win the Latino vote in Florida's I-4 corridor if the Democrats do not allow Floridians delegates to count in 2008. Having lived in Florida as an Democrat active in politics in that state, I can assure you that Democrats will lose that state massively in 2008 if they do not allow the delegates to be seated and I am confident that Michigan will also be lost as well if their delegates are not allowed to be seated. And to be honest, there is not going to be this sudden Democratic win of the states that have voted solidly Red for the last few elections. Its not going to happen, and Democrats cannot afford to alienate the swing states, and both Florida and Michigan are still "swing states"

Dean is trying to assuage the voters in those states right now, but nothing short of allowing the delegates to be seated is going to be accepted by the voters in either state.

[ Parent ]
I'm not really debating that (0.00 / 0)
I think that if Obama has more non-Florida/Michigan pledged delegates, he'll controlled the committees and vote to not seat FL and MI if they would give the nomination to Clinton. If Obama's margin is big enough, he can seat them and still win the nod.

If Clinton has more pledged delegates, she'll seat them and win.

I don't understand why Jerome would include FL and MI in his delegate counter when the states do not even have delegate slates alloted yet. That won't happen for a few months yet.

Actually, scratch that. I know exactly why he would include them. His site must never show Obama ahead in anything. Ever.  

[ Parent ]
I'm convinced he (0.00 / 0)
is getting money for it. He really has gone completely mad.

[ Parent ]
Differing Counts (0.00 / 0)
I completely agree. There are several differing counts of superdelegates already:

CNN has it 193 Clinton, 106 Obama
CBS has it 211 Clinton, 128 Obama
AP   has it 213 Clinton, 139 Obama

Which is right? It seems like AP and CBS push harder for them to side with one or the other, but those superdelegates are the ones most likely to change their minds. In the end, they would probably end up like Chris says, unless the pledged delegate count is extremely close. Hopefully that will be avoided.

Disagree (0.00 / 0)
I'm completely on board with your past opinions that the nomination should go a candidate who demonstrates a clear mandate from the voters, either through pledged delegates or the popular vote.

But I don't see why you want superdelegates not to be included in totals.  Sure, they historically switch to the presumptive nominee, but that's under scenarios in which the nominee is decided early on in the primary process.

If we continue to have a relative stalemate, the likelihood of superdelegates switching is small until that stalemate is resolved in some fashion.  Until that happens, its useful to know how many superdelegates have publicly lined up behind each candidate.  News outlets should thus report both numbers to provide the public with the most information, the count of pledged delegates and the combined count.

John McCain: Health insurance for low income children represents an "unfunded liability."

Exactly - it'll be "unanimous" in the end anyway (0.00 / 0)
Let politics be politics - listen to Chairman Dean. He's not a bad leader, and he's got a vision for fighting on all fronts.  

[ Parent ]
Why emphasize the tie breaker? (4.00 / 1)
The issue is that the way things are being presented, the media is essentially billing the "tiebreaker" as the main score.

When we look at sports standings in the newspaper, they don't lead with what the teams head-to-head records are just in case they finish the season tied - they lead with their won-loss record.

Super information is useful - but as an addendum to pledged delegate counts, which ought to be emphasized.

[ Parent ]
My personal opinion (0.00 / 0)
Is that for the last decade, the media has become in its own way a "superdelegate"

By what they choose to cover and what they do not, by who they choose to attack and who they choose to give a pass, and not examine closely, they have done a great deal to influence the outome of elections.

It started by calling George Bush the winner in Florida several hours before the polls closed(Fox News) and has been doing the same thing in ever growing degrees ever since.

My basic stance now is to support the candidate being most attacked by the media, and by rejecting the one they are not examining closely.

Simply because the media, owned by a handful of large corporations in the United States, almost obviously are attempting to make certain that a candidate who looks after the owners interests best, is the one that has the best chance of getting elected.

I think they have acted almost shamefully in violation of the public trust this year, and the public has not even yawned at them doing so.

[ Parent ]
Should be a tie-breaker, but objectively is not (0.00 / 0)
I don't support giving only the combined totals, but rather giving both totals.  The superdelegate status as a tie-breaker is tricky.  I think that's how they should act, but they are part of the process as well and its not clear how they will act.  The rules of the DNC give power to superdelegates, like it or not.  IMO, the responsibility of the media is to present the information as factually as possible, not to let their feelings about how the rules should work color their presentation of that material.

So I say two columns, pledged delegates and combined totals, with an accurate description of the difference according to the by-laws of the party.  Then its up to the public to digest that information.

John McCain: Health insurance for low income children represents an "unfunded liability."

[ Parent ]
Like I said (4.00 / 1)
The caucus system itself was designed as a way of selecting nominees by preventing large numbers of people from participating.

They were designed by state parties, and the state party machinery to allow those political officials at the state level to assert control over the nominations and to only allow a smaller percentage of the electorate to make the decision, primarily because political parties are not institutions of government, but essentially private clubs.

Basically caucuses were get togethers of "neighbors" but this meant the neighbors of the politicians and party members.

There are long lists of the massive problems that occured in this years Iowa Caucuses.

One example was when Joseph Biden made the first cut for viability but because the gym that the caucus was being held in, and was so crowded, that one of the voters for Biden, being on one side of the gym, could not make it ACROSS to the other side of the gym in the few minutes alloted to switch groups and tables. He was excluded for showing up two seconds late.

There were literally thousands of such disqualifications, all subject to the subjective decisions of the "precinct captains" reported all throughout Iowa in the Iowa Newspapers in the days after the caucus.

Basically it is the precinct captains, the local political party officials who get to decide these things and this becomes even more subject to the opinions of these small groups of "party officials" as the caucus system becomes more and more unwieldly

This is a small list of little problems that occured:


Have Iowa Dems outgrown the caucus system?


Coralville Precinct 6 had the largest turnout in Johnson County, where 762 caucusgoers joined the fray and squeezed into the Wickham Elementary School gymnasium. One participant, Meg Wagner, said that several people could not get in or find parking, so they turned around and drove home. Their voices had been silenced before they had a chance to step onto the gymnasium floor, not to mention, it is hard imagining a civil and constructive discussion transpiring among 762 people.


On the bright side, 60 percent of the caucus-goers were new participants, and it's great to see more people actively participating in the political process. Unfortunately, such a large increase means that the majority of caucus-goers had never been exposed to the strategic and numeric complexities of how the caucuses work. They were left to the mercy of their preferred candidate's precinct captain, assuming they had one. Consequently, instead of actively participating in the process, a number of caucus rookies did as the were told: "Stay put until further instruction."


The real casualties of the Democratic caucus process were the so-called second-tier candidates. For the past nine months, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Sens. Joe Biden of Delaware and Chris Dodd of Connecticut have been battling the media, which simplified the race to a three-candidate race last spring. Coverage focused primarily on the poll-driven front-runners: former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and Sens. Barack Obama of Illinois and Hillary Clinton of New York.

Because of the record-high turnout, the viability threshold was too high for the second-tier candidates. Consequently, the big three sucked all the air out of the room in most precincts. In Coralville Precinct 3, the turnout had nearly doubled since 2004, growing from 64 to 118 attendees. Because the number of delegates assigned to each precinct is based on previous elections, caucus-goers in Coralville 3 found themselves competing for three delegates.


After speeches were given by precinct captains from each of the six represented candidates, caucus-goers broke into preference groups. As expected, Obama and Clinton absorbed most of the people, 43 moving to Obama's corner and 33 moving to Clinton's corner. Meanwhile Edwards (15), Biden (11), Richardson (11), and Dodd (5) did not reach the initial viability number of 20. During the first 15 minutes of the 30-minute realignment period, it was clear that all of these folks came committed to their preferential candidate and were unwilling to join another camp. In a democracy, why should they have to?

By the end of the period, all four unviable groups did commit to one thing: being uncommitted. In lieu of relinquishing the coveted third delegate, the groups formed an uncommitted group, which surpassed Clinton's number, 35-33, while some members broke ranks and went to Obama. Their commitment to uncommitment not only forged a political paradox, but served to repudiate the caucus system. Opposed to adding more credence to a candidate they did not fully support, they were willing to sacrifice their voices in the process, thus maintaining their integrity.


The caucus system is simply too old and too unwieldly for the kind of large crowds that now attend them.

It also means that the precinct captains who prefer one candidate, can simply choose to make personal decisions that exclude votes for candidates other than the ones they support.

Just as bad, if not worse, than the superdelegate system, and the superdelegate system can at the best of times, counterbalance these little local politically oriented decisions as well.

[ Parent ]
On most sites... (0.00 / 0)
it is impossible to even tell what fraction of the total is superdelegates vs. pledged delegates. I'm not sure I'd push as hard as Chris to have no reporting of estimated superdelegate support. But can we at least agree that providing (or heavily emphasizing) only a merged total is somewhat disingenuous and should be stopped?

[ Parent ]
None of them are right (0.00 / 0)
There is only one place that actually give a good estimate of the actual delegate count and this is a site being run by basically two amateurs. Its called "Democratic Convention Watch" and neither of these guys seems to have any particular ax to grind.

It has Clinton with 832 pledged Delegates and 214 superdelegates, Obama with 821 pledged delegates and 119 superdelegates.

This is the only site that keeps up to date, actually LISTS the superdelegates who have given their endorsements by name and state and their official status.  Its the only one that appears to be correct, and the only one that does not seem to have some sort of ulterior motive for slanting their coverage in one dierction or the other, as the news media seems to.

Considering how poorly the news media questioned the events that led to the Iraq War (basically by ignoring an aspect that indicated that the administration might not be giving the straight facts, as well as the way the media botched what the original authorization actually authorized rather than the very bad interpretations that have come to replace the actual authorization with something else entirely) I am disinclined to trust the media when it tells me the time of day, much less anything else.

The site is at:

Its the only trustworthy listing I have found

P.S. (0.00 / 0)
Our own founding fathers were very disenchanted with the idea of direct democracy.

Even Jefferson, the one of the most liberal of the bunch called it "mob rule" and established safeguards to prevent a demagogue who might be able to pursuade people to vote for them by sheer personality, but who could destroy the republic, from being elected. In these days it has become apparent that it is easier to get voters to vote for a candidate by hiring a good advertising firm, than it is to get them to understand the issues, and to vote according to the candidate who is best able to actually deal with them.

It is a very good safeguard, considering that Hitler was democratically elected by a system that much more closely resembles the sort of system that has fewer of these safeguards than our own does.

The nomination process by and large also attempts to place the same sort of safeguards into their own methods of choosing a nominee.

[ Parent ]
Decent, but still a bit unclear... (0.00 / 0)
It's a bit muddled though - their actual best pledged total is 883 Obama, 862 Clinton (You have to scroll down to their super Tuesday post which has a more complete delegate count than the one at the top of the page)

It's not clear why they have two different ones (The one at the top of the page is evidently counting fewer overall pledged delegates, so perhaps is waiting on some final definitive district level results?)

[ Parent ]
MI & FL (0.00 / 0)
One does not count MI and FL (which is the official state of things right now), the other does.

[ Parent ]
DCW delegate count (0.00 / 0)
We've given up trying to count the pledged delegate numbers ourselves - there's just too much debate over it. We're using AP numbers as a baseline going forward. Of course we continue to use our own superdelegate numbers.

And to the person who called us "basically two amateurs", uh, that pretty much nailed it!


[ Parent ]
Just using AP numbers for delegate count n/t (0.00 / 0)
Read the numbers guy:

[ Parent ]
At least SEPARATE supers from pledged delegate totals (4.00 / 1)
Most people, i.e. the non-political junkies reading this, do not understand this stuff well, and when CNN or NYTimes tells you that Clinton leads in delegates, they think that's the end of the story.  Many don't know that Obama is leading in delegates based on public primaries at this point.

Chris is right that supers should not be counted at this stage; but at the very least the media should clearly separate the pledged vs. super total; otherwise the public really has no way of understanding the dynamic of the race.

It's apples and oranges... (0.00 / 0)
One is a Poll (the super's) and the other are Actual Election Results. They should not be mixed together as one and the same.

Jabberwonk! Reality Based Link Dump

Number Crunching, 2/8 (0.00 / 0)
Assuming NBCs current estimate of pledged delegates (Obama 861, Clinton 858) is correct, and assuming that Clinton and Obama split all 796 superdelegates 50/50, then . . .  were Obama to win exactly 50% of the remaining pledged delegates the total delegate count would be: 2,026 Obama, 1,997 Clinton.

Assuming Open Left's current estimate of pledged delegates (Obama 896, Clinton 878, with 18 still outstanding) is correct, and assuming that Clinton and Obama split all 796 superdelegates 50/50, then . . . were Obama to win exactly 50% of the remaining pledged delegates, the total delegate count would be: 2,034 Obama, 1,990 Clinton.

The missing 26 delegates are currently pledged to John Edwards. Florida and Michigan are not being taken into account in making these calculations.

Spin (0.00 / 0)
Right now, with the exception of NBC news, most news outlets are counting super delegates in their running delegate total for the Democratic nomination. However, they should not be doing this, because it assumes something very negative about Democrats that has been consistently refuted by past Democratic nomination campaigns makes it look like Hillary is winning, even though I used to say "it's all about delegates" it's not.

Not the Time to Argue (0.00 / 0)
Many good points, I'll just add a couple more.

I don't think now is the time to argue over superDs. If by the end of the primaries the pledged delegate vote clearly shows a winner; that will be the end of it.  The SDs will go to the winner. It is only if the vote is close that the SDs will have a role to play - unless there is some other staggering reason that the party would not want the winning candidate to run like a huge scandal or something.  But it seems to me that arguing about it now will only serve to further divide the DP and make us more vulnerable in the Fall

That being said, I don't think the role of the SDs is necessarily to line up with the "popular vote winner" when the pledge delegate tally is close, otherwise the SDs wouldn't exist. Further, as noted, the pledged delegate vote is not a "popular vote" - think caucus elections. Finally, if the delegate count is close and the argument is the SDs should go with the "popular will of the people", then Michigan and Florida delegates should be included. I don't mean to add fuel to the debate but I think it's important to note there are a number of issues that will need to be addressed if the tally is tight.

So many views, so little clarity (4.00 / 1)
One main point on which I'll disagree is that now is exactly the time to have this conversation, since the rules changes can be debated at conventions, whether it be this year or the next. The Superdelegate system is a political appendix long past its prime. This is not to say that there aren't other glaring issues with caucuses in general - more on that below - but it's amazing to see people arguing for a system where one person can cast a vote at the convention which, in effect, cancels out the votes of thousands of party members.

Any arguments above which imply that superdelegates might somehow "correct" for people who didn't vote are, frankly, insane. Elections are decided by those who, given a reasonable opportunity to vote and who are ready, willing and able to do so, actually go out and cast a vote. This applies to national elections, primaries, and the school yearbook.

The caucus system varies from weak to undemocratic (small "d") and unamerican. Iowa D of course, is the worst. When you have to stand up in front of neighbors, friends, family, co-workers and.. oh yes.. EMPOLOYERS to signify your vote.. Well, if you don't understand that, you are simply deranged.

But, again, the superdelegate system has virtually nothing to recommend it when one person - even the husband of a candidate - can cast a vote cancelling out the votes of thousands of party members. And there is so much to favor a system where each party member wishing to vote (and given a reasonable span of time across the course of a day to do so) can go and cast a vote equal to everyone else.

The superdelegates need to go, and until such time as that can be managed, it seems vital to track the final votes of these supers so that the party members can see how well their will was represented in the final decision.

Popular vote (0.00 / 0)
They should report pledged delegates and the second most democratic measure, popular votes.

Clinton leads both today:

Clinton: 840
Obama: 831

Clinton won Super Tuesday popular votes by 50,000 or .4%.

Banned for posting five straight diaries.

You know that's not true, right? (0.00 / 0)
I mean, if you're just saying it but you know it's not true, which I suspect is the case, then I have nothing to say. Just in case you don't know:

Obama clearly won more pledged delegates on Tuesday. The margin of his advantage in the pledged delegate count is not clear yet and will depend on the final results. I have not kept up with the more recent results and how narrow this margin is now, but Obama won more delegates based on all projections I've seen so far (that include all Feb 5 pledged delegates).

[ Parent ]

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